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U.S. eyeing vaccine ‘passports’ for travel abroad, says DHS head

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaks with the media outside of the Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said the government is taking “a very close look” at the possibility of vaccine passports for travel into and out of the United States.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

The U.S. is taking a close look at vaccine “passports” for international travel, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said Friday, opening the door to voluntary measures to prove vaccination status abroad.

Mayorkas, speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America” ahead of the long Memorial Day weekend, was asked about creating the document for flights into and out of the U.S.

“We’re taking a very close look at that,” he said. “One of our principles that has guided us throughout the pandemic is the value of diversity, equity and inclusion, and making sure that any passport we provide for vaccinations is accessible to all and that no one is disenfranchised, and so we’re taking a very close look at that. There’s an underlying point here, of course, which is: Everyone should get vaccinated.”

Liza Acevedo, a spokesperson for the department, said later that Mayorkas was referring to work already underway to make sure “all U.S. travelers will be able to easily meet any anticipated foreign country entry requirements.”

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There will be no federal vaccination database or a federal requirement for Americans to prove they’ve been vaccinated, Acevedo said.

The White House has regularly dismissed any suggestion that it will create some federal document certifying vaccination status. “We are not instituting vaccine passports from a federal level,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

We explain what vaccine passports are, how they work, where they’ve been implemented, and why some people object to them.

Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that the administration hasn’t changed its position but that it “recognizes that other countries have or may have foreign entry requirements.”

“We will be monitoring these and helping all U.S. travelers meet those but we will not be — there will be no federal mandate requiring anyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” she told reporters aboard Air Force One.

U.S. health officials have lifted virtually all restrictions, including most mask mandates, for vaccinated people. That move left businesses, states and cities with a problem: There’s no way to verify who is vaccinated.

The European Union plans to open up quarantine-free travel for tourists vaccinated with EU-approved shots — including the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines used in the U.S. — but the U.S. has yet to reciprocate.


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